On the Hill Updates April 13, 2018
Gun Violence Prevention
NCJW Supports National Gun Safety Events
NCJW is supporting the third youth-led national effort to highlight our nation’s epidemic of gun violence — the April 20th Day of Action to Stop Gun Violence in Our Schools & Our Communities. Click here for resources. And, once again, NCJW is supporting #WearOrange, the 4th National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Friday, June 1 will kick off Wear Orange Weekend, which will feature community events across the nation.
Budget and Human Needs
Balanced Budget Amendment Fails in the House
On April 12, The US House of Representatives voted on HJ Res 2, a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) offered by House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). The measure neglected to garner the ⅔ votes needed to pass (233-184). NCJW opposes this reckless proposal which would require slashing human programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, retiree benefits, education, and more to pay for the Republican’s massive $1.8 trillion tax bill rammed through Congress earlier this year. Why? Because a BBA would require that the federal government not spend more than it brings in in a given year. In other words, expenditures cannot exceed revenue in a fiscal year. And, if an economic downturn reduces revenues, the federal government would have no choice but to spend less, despite growing need — a recipe for turning downturns into recessions, or worse.
Trump Seeks Work Requirements In Exchange For Human Needs Benefits
On April 10, Trump signed the Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility executive order, ordering secretaries across the government to review their safety net programs — from food stamps to Medicaid to housing programs — and propose new regulations, like work requirements. The executive order, opposed by NCJW, calls on federal agencies to enforce current work requirements; propose additional, stronger requirements; find savings; and give states more flexibility.
Nation’s Anti-Hunger Program on Chopping Block
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — the nation’s most critical anti-hunger program — supports 41 million working families earning low wages, seniors, children, and individuals with disabilities. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway’s (R-TX) draft farm bill, released on April 12, seeks to erode the effectiveness of SNAP in ensuring that those who struggle against hunger can afford to put food on the table. Under this bill, large numbers of working families with children would no longer receive SNAP, there would be a much harsher “cliff effect” in the program, and, in turn, children would be denied access to other essential anti-hunger programs, such as school breakfast and lunch, putting their health and learning at risk. NCJW opposes work requirements and eligibility limits for the program that would result in the elimination of coverage for millions of SNAP households and a reduction in benefit amounts for remaining households.
- Take Action! Call the Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) to urge opposition to the farm bill, and instead ask your lawmaker to cosponsor HR 1276, the Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2017. HR 1276 would increase SNAP benefit allotment amounts and ameliorate the arbitrary time limit on SNAP eligibility for certain jobless or underemployed adults.
Reproductive Health & Rights
Administration Detaining Pregnant Immigrants
At the end of March, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) admitted that it had reversed an Obama-era policy under which pregnant immigrant women were released from ICE custody within 24 hours. Instead, pregnant immigrants can now be held in detention centers. Given the lack of sufficient medical care and poor conditions in detention centers, the policy change puts pregnant immigrant women at even greater risk.
Health Care Rule Changes Will Harm Consumers
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalized health care rule changes that will weaken benefit standards, likely harming individuals with pre-existing conditions; raise new barriers for those who want to enroll in health coverage; and reduce accountability for insurers and transparency for consumers.The new rule applies to coverage in the individual and small-group insurance markets that meets Affordable Care Act (ACA) standards, including coverage offered in the ACA’s health insurance marketplaces. NCJW opposes this rule which would raise enrollment barriers, discourage consumers from maintaining coverage, and reduce health insurance accountability and transparency.
DeVos Considers Rescinding Racial Bias Guidance
US Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering rescinding guidance on school discipline that aims to protect black students from being punished more severely than their white peers — despite a recent Government Accountability Office report that found black students, boys, and students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined with suspensions and expulsions regardless of whether the school is in a high-income or a low-income community.The Obama-era guidance reminds schools that receive federal funds of their legal obligations to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin; maps out best practices, including using suspension as a discipline of last resort; and details the department’s process for investigating claims of discrimination. Already DeVos has overturned Obama-era guidance for colleges on handling sexual assaults and rolled back guidance that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. NCJW supports this critical guidance that helps protect students from discrimination under federal civil rights laws.
States Sue Trump Administration Over Census
In response to the recent decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, 17 states, the District of Columbia, and six cities sued the Trump administration. California and the NAACP announced separate suits last week. Civil rights organizations, including NCJW, fear a citizenship question would lead to a chilling effect for non-citizen immigrants and their families, ultimately leading to undercounting these already vulnerable populations. The decennial census determines everything from Congressional representation to federal allocations, so an accurate count is of paramount importance. NCJW has repeatedly opposed adding a citizenship question to the census.
Anti-Immigrant Executive Order in Process
On March 29, the Trump Administration sent a new anti-immigrant executive order to the Office of Management and Budget, the final step before it is published. The executive order would make it possible to deny residency to immigrants using almost any form of welfare or public benefit, such as tax credits, food assistance, or Medicaid. It represents a massive shift from how residency applications have been evaluated over the past fifty years. The order is just the latest example of the administration’s dangerous, anti-immigrant policies, which NCJW strongly opposes.
In related anti-immigrant news this week, the US Department of Justice announced that it will temporarily halt a program that offers legal assistance to detained foreign nationals facing deportation while it audits the program’s cost-effectiveness; set quotas that require immigration judges to clear 700 cases a year, starting in October, and require judges to ensure that 85% of cases for individuals that have been detained be completed in three days; and Attorney General Sessions ordered a “zero tolerance” policy aimed at individuals entering the United States illegally for the first time on the Mexican border. NCJW opposes these efforts which will harm due process and vastly speed up the administration’s deportation machine, among other expected onerous outcomes.
Trump Fuming Over Immigration
On April 4, President Trump directed officials to deploy the National Guard to the southern border, with Arizona, California and other states following suit. While this decision is not without precedent — Presidents Bush and Obama also sent troops to the border — the timing is unusual given that the number of individuals trying to cross the border is at a recent historic low.
Further, Trump administration officials stated they were drafting a new legislative package aimed at closing immigration “loopholes.” The package could include border wall funding, rules to make it more difficult to apply for or receive asylum, ending special safeguards that prevent the immediate deportation of children arrested at the border and traveling alone, and eliminating a requirement to release children from custody to parents, adult relatives or other caretakers as their court cases proceed.NCJW opposes these cruel measures to hurt border communities, immigrant families, and children.
Tennessee Raid Largest in a Decade
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided a meat-processing plant in rural Tennessee on April 5, arresting 97 immigrants in the largest single workplace raid in a decade.More than 500 students stayed home from school the next day. This is a clear sign that President Trump plans to carry out his promise to aggressively increase immigration enforcement this year.
Equal Pay Day — April 10
April 10 was Equal Pay Day, which marks the day that the average woman’s wages catch up to those of her white, male counterparts from the previous year. On average, women earn 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, and it’s worse for women of color: African American women earn 63 cents, Native American women earn 57 cents, and Latinas earn just 54 cents. NCJW supports equal pay for equal work.
#CourtsMatter to Equal Pay
The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that employers cannot justify paying a woman less than a man doing similar work because of her salary history — a move that will help close the wage gap between men and women. The federal appeals court sided with the California math consultant at the center of Rizo v. Fresno County Office of Education, which argued that considering prior compensation when setting a worker’s pay perpetuates gender disparities and defies the spirit of the Equal Pay Act.
#CourtsMatter to Abortion
On March 30, a federal judge issued a sweeping order that temporarily prevents the government from blocking access to abortion services for undocumented, pregnant minors who have been detained in federal immigration custody. The ruling in Garza v. Hargan bars the the government from “interfering with or obstructing” pregnant minors’ access to abortion counseling or abortions, among other things, while a lawsuit proceeds. NCJW joined All* Above All and other partners in collecting thousands of signatures calling for the removal of Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the US Department of Health and Human Services, as he is using his position to block young immigrants and refugees from accessing abortion care. The ORR is legally obligated to provide prompt access to safe medical care for all those within its charge.
Judicial Nominee Wendy Vitter #UnfitToJudge
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Wendy Vitter to serve as the US District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana. NCJW strongly opposes this nomination. Vitter has a long record of extreme hostility to reproductive freedom, including opposing women’s access to contraception and abortion care. Further, during her hearing, Vitter refused to say whether she agreed with the result of the landmark US Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education. Watch the video clip here.
Sign On Letters
- On March 29, more than 400 faith leaders and organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by Church World Service to the President and Congress decrying low refugee arrival numbers.
- On March 30, NCJW joined more than 200 faith leaders and organizations on a letter organized by CLINIC to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen urging her to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nepal for 18 months.
- On April 4, NCJW and 47 reproductive rights, health, and justice organizations also sent a letter to lawmakers underscoring the importance of the federal court system in upholding constitutional protections, including reproductive freedom.
- On April 5, NCJW joined 10 other Jewish organizations on a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing concern for the safety and future of African asylum seekers in Israel.
- On April 9, NCJW joined a NARAL-led letter to federal lawmakers opposing Wendy Vitter’s confirmation.
- On April 11, NCJW joined the 2nd Circuit Court religious organizations amicus curiae brief in Vidal v. Nielsen and State of New York v. Trump, cases challenging the Trump administration’s actions to terminate DACA.